“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is still relevant

Zaynab Kouatli, Opinion Editor

On February 21, 2005, “Avatar the Last Airbender” premiered on Nickelodeon. During my childhood this was my favorite show and despite being released 17 years ago it still remains as my number one. The reason I adored and still adore this show is because of the lessons and messages that are portrayed.  

“ATLA” is what you would call a hamburger anime because of how it uses Japanese tropes and interprets them into a perspective that is American. The anime art style has historically been used in Japan to process the tragedies of post war Japan. Similarly, “ATLA” is used to symbolize America post the misfortune of 9/11.  

If you haven’t seen “ATLA” (have you been living in a block of ice) let me, give you the gist. What better way to summarize the plot than with intro of the show narrated by Katara, “Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed, and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world.” 

Traditionally in anime, a pubescent boy with special abilities has the responsibility of all of humanity’s shortcomings. In this series, Aang inherits the flaws of the Unites States, an empire that has constantly waged war.  

After 9/11, the United States has been out for blood and has been seeking vengeance in the middle east. In the “ATLA” universe, the Fire Nation has been waging war for the last 100 years. In contrast to the real world, peace in the Middle East is something that has become unattainable. “ATLA” seems to be foreshadowing the fate of the Middle East and a century-long war fades into our reality. 

The Fire Nation is obsessed with the façade of its own preeminence. This nation is provoked to savagery by the assumption that other nations would be better if they were colonized. They have no issue killing and displacing thousands to benefit their own agenda. What other nation is willing to go to these lengths? You guessed it, the United States of America.  

Take the prison system of the Fire Nation. The same way that America has the highest prison population in the world the Fire nation also has overflowing prisons filled with non-fire benders. The American prison system (although there are white people) is predominantly nonwhite people. “ATLA” does a really good job of depicting a police system that is corrupt. The Fire Nation’s prisons are a pretty truthful interpretation of what the American prison system looks like.  

There are also parallels between America and the Fire Nation’s violent efforts for colonization. America has continued to rage wars steered by having more concern with its own glory than caring for its own people and humanity. The Unites States and the Fire Nation both have numerous accomplishments under their belt. However, this does not mean that the rest of the world should be forced to follow the same beliefs.  

The final season of “ATLA,” we get a backstory about the friendship between Roku (the avatar before Aang) and Sozin (the Fire Nation general). Sozin started the hundred-year war and through a flashback we get clued in that Sozins efforts for colonization are based on greed and power. Post-World War II, America has taken the role of the world’s police force. We are taught the reason why America has taken this position is to protect humanity from communism. This is utter propaganda as America’s colonial efforts are not based on necessity but rather because of greed.   

Zuko is the Fire Lord’s son. Throughout the series he fights with himself on whether to fight along with the Fire Nation or the rebellion. We all are a lot like Zuko. We are born into a corrupt world that we had no part in constructing, yet we must choose where our loyalties lie along with the repercussions of choosing either side.  

The citizens of the Fire nation are not inherently evil. Neither are we! The agenda of a handful of corrupt politicians and a corrupt system have directed us on this journey. However, just Like “ATLA,” you do get to choose what side you are one. Are you with Fire Lord Ozai or will you join Aang and save the world?